28 March 1652, the Dutch Merchantman, the 'Amersfoort', anchored at the Cape with a cargo of 174 Slaves. The Amersfoort's arrival in Table Bay, with Slaves in its hold, firmly brought the Cape Colony into the fold, of one of the most terrible Institutions of the last Centuries that being, the Slave Trade. Two years later, in April 1654, after struggling to get the fledging Settlement going, Jan Van Riebeeck once again wrote to the Heeren XVII, asking for Slave Labour. He wrote in his letter; ‘if it could be agreed upon, however, it would be very much cheaper to have the Agricultural Work, Seal-Catching and all other necessary work, done by Slaves; in return for a plain Fare of Rice and Fish or Seal and Penguin Meat alone, without pay. The Slaves could be obtained and brought very cheaply from Madagascar, together with Rice, in one voyage.’
On 10 June 1793 C G Höhne, Private Secretary, to the Governor wrote a letter to Cape of Good Hope. About the conditions of Enslaved People at the VOC Company, Slave Lodge in Cape Town. He stated with grave concern that due to ‘Increased Labour’ performed by a ‘much reduced number of the East Company’s Slaves’, Enslaved People at the Lodge, were not given enough time to wash their clothes or themselves as ‘for an extended period no Sunday or any day of cleaning themselves has been allowed them.’
The proper Housing of Slaves, in Cape Town presented the Dutch with a problem from the onset. When the first Slaves arrived on 28 March 1658, at first they were Housed within the Fort; they were then moved to a House called 'Corenhoop', built for them just outside the Fort. In the 1660s, they were moved to a specially designated Slave Lodge, immediately below the Company's Gardens. Because this building soon fell into disrepair, a new lodge in the form of a Single Storey rectangular structure set in an open court, was built to house some 500 – 600 Slaves. Work started in February 1679, but before it could be completed, the old Lodge was completely destroyed, by fire. The building housed the company's Slaves for nearly 31 years. By 1716 it had again grown too small, and in 1732 it was restored and enlarged. In 1752 it was again extended and was given a Second Storey. After the British Annexation of the Cape in 1806, most of the Slaves Housed in the Lodge, were sold. In 1807 when it was also decided to convert the Building into Government Offices. It was at this stage, that the Building gained its 'Fine Façade'. Designed by Thibault and erected by Schutte. While parts of its Decoration are the work of; Anton Anreith.  Various Governmental Offices were Housed in the Building during the nineteenth and early twentieth Centuries. For example, the Governor’s Advisory Council, the Upper House of the first Parliament, The Cape Supreme Court, the first Library, the first Post Office, Deeds Office, and the Women’s Auxiliary Services of the South African Defence Force. The Building was restored in 1960, for use as a Cultural History Museum.
The Slave Lodge, opened its door as a Museum on 6 April 1966. The SA Cultural History Museum, originally a division of the SA Museum, became an Independent Museum, in 1969. In 1998, the Building was renamed, the Slave Lodge. In 2000, the Museum and its Associated Sites, amalgamated with its parent body. This also included the SA National Gallery, the William Fehr Collection and the Michaelis Collection to form, Iziko Museums of Cape Town.
18° 25' 1.2", -33° 55' 26.4"
Source: Prof. Robert C.H. Shell, From Diaspora to Diorama, (Cape Town: Ancestry 24, 2003) p. 1559.
Further Reading